Fred Snodgrass and the ‘$30,000 Muff” in the 1912 World Series

Fred Snodgrass and the ‘$30,000 Muff” in the 1912 World Series

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 Fred Snodgrass and the “$30,000 Muff!”

“I never lost that World Series. I never took the blame for losing any World Series.” –Fred Snodgrass

My recent post about Fred Merkle got me thinking about another infamous baseball incident, the Fred Snodgrass “$30,000 Muff” which occurred in the 1912 World Series. Like Merkle in the 1908 game which may have cost the Giants the pennant, Snodgrass was labeled the “goat” of the series.

The incident occurred in the tenth inning of the eighth and last game of the 1912 World Series between the Giants and the Red Sox in Boston. The score was tied 1-1 after nine innings, but the Giants scored a run in the top of the tenth and were three outs away from a World Series Championship. Having lost the World Series in 1911 to the Philadelphia Athletics, they were just about ready to celebrate. And then it happened…

The first batter up in the bottom of the tenth, Clyde Engel, hit a routine fly ball to Snodgrass in center who was widely regarded as one of the best outfielders of the Dead Ball Era. And, as luck would have it, Snodgrass just flat-out dropped the danged ball – one he normally puts in his hip pocket – as Engel ended up on second. I’ll let Snodgrass pick up the story from here:

“I did drop the ball. There’s no question about that. But I didn’t let the tying and winning runs score. I couldn’t because it happened with the first batter! Well, Harry Hooper was next. And in the 10th inning of a tie game, we were just certain he would bunt to move the man over to third. But instead of bunting, Hooper cracked a drive way over my head. I made one of the greatest plays of my life on it, catching the ball over my shoulder while on the dead run out in deep left center. They always forget about that play when they write about that inning. Then Matty walked Steve Yerkes, unfortunately, with what proved to be the winning run. Two men on and only one out. And up comes Tris Speaker, one of the greatest hitters in the game.”

“What does Speaker do but take a swing at the ball and hit a nice easy pop-up, a foul ball, over near first base. And that ball was never touched! Merkle didn’t have to go thirty feet to get it, it was almost in the first-base coaching box. Chief Meyers, our catcher, tried to catch it, but couldn’t quite get there. It was too far from home plate. Matty could have put it in his hind pocket. Well, given that reprieve, Speaker hit a clean line drive over Merkle’s head that scored the man I put on and put Yerkes on third base. Another long fly to right by Larry Gardner and Yerkes scored after the catch. The game is over and, according to the newspapers, Fred Snodgrass lost the World Series. However, the facts don’t seem to matter.”

Fred Snodgrass played eight years in the Major Leagues. He hit .275 with 215 stolen bases and 453 RBIs. He played in the World Series with the Giants in 1911, 1912, and 1913. Career highlights include a .440 on-base percentage in 1910, 51 stolen bases in 1911, and 48 stolen bases in 1912. He later became a successful banker and a popular mayor in Oxnard, California.

His error in the 1912 World Series remained with him to the end. When he died on April 5, 1974, his obituary in the New York Times was headlined “Fred Snodgrass, 86, Dead; Ball Player Muffed 1912 Fly.”

-Gary Livacari

Photo Credits: Public Domain

Information edited from the Fred Snodgrass interview in “Glory of Their Times, by Lawrence Ritter;” and excerpts edited from the Fred Snodgrass Wikipedia page.

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I'm a baseball historian who also loves to write. My forte is identifying ballplayers in old photos, and my specail interest is the Dead Ball Era.

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